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Kasra Zarei University of Iowa, College of Engineering

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1 Technical Communication in the Research World Preparing a Poster Presentation and More
Kasra Zarei University of Iowa, College of Engineering Hanson Center for Technical Communication March 11, 2015

2 Quick Poll How many of you……..
participate in undergraduate research to some extent? are presenting at an upcoming poster session (i.e. Engineering Open House, Undergraduate Research Festival, etc.), brought text and figures from your research project, and need some help designing your poster? have presented your work before?

3 Technical Communication vs. Communication
Technical communication - broad field and includes any form of communication that focuses on communicating….. Technical or specialized topics (computer applications, medical procedures, etc.) Scientific, engineering, factual information Instructions about how to do something Audience: professionals or the general audience Entirety of your research work Communication – imparting/exchanging information Art of presenting Audience: general audience Overview of your research work

4 Why is technical communication/communication important?

5 Reasons Helps you gain a higher understanding of your research work
Looks great on a CV – (discourse, presentation experience, awards, conference abstracts) Additional experiences such as writing a journal article for publication, honors thesis/project Great experience for graduate, medical school Adds further independence to your research work

6 Preparing a Poster Presentation
Requires: Miscellaneous Items (title bar, authorship, affiliations, logos, acknowledgements) May or may not have an abstract Introduction/Background Methods Results Conclusions/Discussion Note: structure is very similar to a journal paper You do need an abstract (we will talk more about this later)

7 Preparing a Poster Presentation
Link on Engineering Open House Website: Describes in great detail how to prepare a poster presentation

8 Preparing a Poster Presentation
A large-format poster is a big piece of paper (or wall-mounted monitor) that can communicate your research at a conference is composed of a short title an introduction to your burning question an overview of your novel approach your amazing results in graphical form some insightful discussion of aforementioned results a listing of previously published articles that are important to your research some brief acknowledgement of the tremendous assistance and financial support from others if all text is kept to a minimum, a person could fully read your poster in under 5 minutes (really).

9 Preparing a Poster Presentation
Some key rules about preparing a poster and technical communication in general: You get better every time you write Limit the amount of words on your poster (but save them for the journal article) Lots of revisions Make sure it is readable from a few yards away from your poster. Usually, this can be accomplished by using a font size in the mid- twenties Do not use first person Lastly, the idea of telling a story, not presenting a research project

10 Preparing a Poster Presentation


12 Preparing a Poster – Miscellaneous Parts

13 How to Craft an Engaging Title
Should preserve the technicalities of your work, but not be overly long typically save writing the title until the very end proceed by writing a list of keywords and key points that have been demonstrated by the study write a few concise titles for my poster, bounce them off a co-worker or a mentor, and then add the final title to the top of the poster

14 Acknowledgements Bottom right corner
I use this space for acknowledgements, but this depends on the preference of the student. Others may use this space for references, but I normally save references for the actual conference paper or publication, and just cite them when I am giving the actual talk. In the acknowledgements section, I briefly thank the contributions of my mentors, collaborators, and other key personnel in the same lab. Acknowledgments do appear in a journal paper as well (this includes grant support)

15 Introduction I find it effective to always start with the disease or whatever problem you are addressing in your study. Describe the public health problem or the global issues, and current research in this area. Start broad this way, briefly mention any established models you are using, and then narrow in gradually on your specific research question, hypothesis, and the purpose of your study This section especially involves performing a literature search (we will cover later) Helps finds statistics Describe previous research studies, shortcomings in your research question of interest

16 Methods Should be written as concisely as possible but should contain all elements necessary to allow interpretation and replication of the results Someone should have a general sense of how to reproduce your experiment Start out and briefly describe the different techniques used. The Methods section should be subdivided by short bold headings referring to methods used For instance, you can include specific subsections for statistics, reagents and animal models Write out full abbreviations the first time you use them Include information about sample sizes used for data analysis

17 Methods If you used a widely-used laboratory technique, there is no need to describe it in great detail. It helps to just describe it as a “standard technique” and if you want, include a small picture of the apparatus. Only for novel methods should you expand on each step in the methodology to let your audience know what is new and unique Be sure to cite any standard techniques you use I will briefly mention EndNote (a citation management tool), but for now…. All authors should be included in reference lists unless there are more than five In which case only the first author should be given, followed by 'et al.'. Authors should be listed last name first, followed by a comma and initials of given names.

18 Methods In the text and during the presentation, always be sure to describe your methods in the order you performed them. Doing so will help walk your audience through your experiment Include a Data Flow Diagram

19 Methods Section - Data Flow Diagram

20 Results Merely present your results as figures and additional statistics. Remember that you do not need to describe what statistical test you used in the results section any text about the data analysis you used should go in the method sections, under its own sub-section. Just state the P-value, correlation coefficient, or whatever value you obtained from your statistical test It helps if you have taken a statistics course. Your mentor or a graduate student supervisor can also direct you to the appropriate statistical tests to use

21 Results – P-Value Commonly used in all results sections
Measure of how statistically significant your results are (i.e. not due to chance) Two ways to include your P-Value: Put exact number State whether P > 0.05 or P < 0.05 You will find that some people prefer to list the exact p-value so audience members can understand exactly how significant or non-significant the result is, while others may prefer to just say it is less than the value of 0.05. Either option is fine - when you present your poster, just be sure to state that the difference is significant or non-significant, although it is safe to assume that your audience can understand basic statistics. In other words, you do not need to explain the null hypothesis, an alpha value of 0.05, or other jargon you learned from your statistics course

22 Results Tables – only use them for summary statistics
Graphs are easier to look at than tables Make sure your x and y axes are the same length! Publication-quality figures (perfected) vs. Poster-quality figures (imperfect)

23 Results – How to Generate Figures
Excel is great because it is easy to use. I use excel to generate scatter plots and bar graphs, but you may find that excel isn’t the best for generating other types of figures such as box plots. There is other software available for making professional figures. These include R, Prism, and Python. R in particular is easy to download and use

24 R One of the main reasons data analysts turn to R is for its strong graphic capabilities. Which it may be advantageous to use Excel for generating scatter plots or bar graphs due to the ease, with R you can generate high- quality basic graph types. The following link will help you download R for free on your own personal computer: The following link has instructions about how to create all the basic graph types: There is no need to worry about your level of programming. You can learn how to generate graphs in R using basic commands without worrying about the rigors of programming in R.

25 Results – Figure Captions
For every figure you include, be sure to have a figure caption (below or to the side) Feel free to also use lettering (figure 1A, 1B, etc.) when displaying your figures The process for creating a title for the figure is the same as creating the title of your poster. Start with some keywords, write a few figure titles that you believe describe what the figure is doing (such as comparing a particular variable of interest between two groups, etc.), and then select the figure title that is the most concise. After you write down the figure title, provide a brief description, 1 or 2 sentences, which impartially explains what you or an audience members observes when they look at the figure. You can’t go wrong with starting with a phrase such as “This figure depicts…..”

26 Conclusions Do not interpret your results in the results section because any discussion should be saved for the conclusions section. I prefer to use a simple bulleted list in the conclusions section

27 Conclusions When writing your conclusions section, be sure that anything you write can be traced back to your results. In other words, keep your discussion focused on what you demonstrated in your study. Keep this section very brief on the poster itself. You are welcome to postulate when you are verbally presenting, and will in fact often find yourself doing so and discussing the significance and future direction of your work with audience members that stop by your poster. But for the poster itself, keep the conclusions concise and well-supported. At this point you can re-iterate the major statistics from your data analysis. One of the most important aspects of an effective conclusion is being able to tie your results back to your background section. Your audience will love your poster if you can effectively tell them how your study relates back to the public health problem or global issue that you started with in your background. Exercise caution - be careful not to make a bizarre, unsupported claim

28 All Sections Complete? Before printing your poster, be sure to proof-read everything in your poster – text, figure captions, axis labels, authorship, etc. You do not want to make a glaring error on your poster only to figure out about it after it has been printed. It requires a sufficient amount of time and money to print a poster. It always helps to send it to your mentor or another peer to provide edits. When your poster is finalized and you are ready to print, talk with your mentor to see if there is a nearby lab poster you can also use. Sometimes, they may also have grant money that can cover the minimal, but significant cost of printing a poster.

29 Does anyone need help creating or editing their poster?

30 Need Further Assistance
I will hold walk-in hours (through the Hanson CTC) as needed and am available to help make edits to your poster, scientific writing, honors thesis, etc. Contact me to set up a time to meet at your convenience You can also contact Scott Coffel or Jennifer Ambrose through the Hanson CTC I have also developed a series of 12 lecture videos that will be released on the Hanson CTC website These lecture include how to prepare the different sections of your poster and supplemental technical communication topics (abstracting, preparing figures for publication, submitting your journal article for publication)

31 Post-Presentation Questions
How many of you….. Would like more workshop opportunities, and more opportunities to practice/get help with technical communication? Would like the idea of having a technical communication seminar offered through the college of engineering (specifically for undergraduates)?

32 Abstracting – “A Movie Trailer that Gives Away the Ending”
An effective abstract Uses one or more well-developed paragraphs, which are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone Uses a structure in which the parts of the report are discussed in order: purpose, methods, results, and conclusions. You can divide your abstract explicitly into these sections, or leave the abstract as one paragraph. This is up to your own preference and the guidelines of the conference or research festival which you are submitting your abstract to. An effective abstract also follows strictly the chronology of the report Provides logical connections between material included Adds no new information but simply summarizes the report And Is intelligible to a wide audience

33 Abstracting To write an effective report abstract, follow these four basic steps. Reread your research report or manuscript with the purpose of abstracting in mind. Look specifically for these main parts: purpose, methods, results, and conclusions. After you have finished rereading your report, write a rough draft without looking back at your report. Consider the main parts of the abstract listed in step #1. Do not merely copy key sentences from your report. You will put in too much or too little information. Do not summarize information in a new way. Revise your rough draft to Correct weaknesses in organization and coherence, Drop superfluous information, Add important information originally left out, Eliminate wordiness, and Correct errors in grammar and mechanics. Carefully proofread your final copy, and share with your peers and mentors. After this you are ready to submit your abstract to your research conference!

34 How to Perform a Literature Search
Performing a literature search is very easy to do. A literature search is a systematic and explicit approach to the identification, retrieval, and bibliographic management of independent studies (usually drawn from published sources) for the purpose of locating information on a topic, synthesizing conclusions, identifying areas for future study, and developing guidelines for clinical practice. Computer database searches, such as Pubmed, are the most efficient way to identify published studies. Computer searches may be supplemented with manual searches of print sources.

35 Literature Search vs. Review
Literature identification and management, the search process, is distinguished from the literature review process. A literature review involves analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing scientific evidence derived from studies identified through the search process.

36 How to Perform a Literature Search
Before your perform a literature search, be sure to ask yourself some questions such as is the topic too broad or too narrow, and what is the scope of your search. When researchers want to perform a literature search, they typically want to find key articles on their individual research topic. This is called a “focused search”. The opposite of a focused literature search is a comprehensive literature search which attempts to survey the entire literature on a topic. After you have spent some time thinking about you question and topic you wish to search, spend some time generating relevant keywords. Next, chose an established database (PubMed, etc.)

37 How to Perform a Literature Search
Great online resource from the University of Berkeley - This site contains instructions about how to focus your search, use limits, save your searches, and many other functionalities. There are also many more databases listed on this website you can use to find your journal articles. As a university student, you can view entire journal articles for free while on the university campus. A great strategy when performing a literature search is to use the references and citations of another journal article to find more articles for your focused literature search.

38 Brief Introduction to EndNote
EndNote is a bibliographic management tool for collecting, organizing, sharing and formatting citations. As an undergraduate student, you have spent your past manually writing references and citations following rules listed in Purdue OWL. While you might be able to do this for a lab report that requires a few scholarly sources, you will struggle to do the same for a poster or manuscript which involve many more references Furthermore, opposed to writing a lab report, developing a poster or manuscript requires countless rounds of revision. Thus, the order of your citations will likely change considering the fact that you must cite your articles in the order that they appear in the text. Additionally, different journals have different guidelines for formatting references and in-text citations. Thankfully, there is an existing software, EndNote, which can save you the time and trouble, and mange citations for you

39 Brief Introduction to EndNote
EndNote is free for graduate students, faculty, and staff, but not for undergraduate students. However, if you do not wish to purchase the software, you can ask your mentor or another person in your lab that has EndNote to let you use the software. EndNote allows you to specify the guidelines for formatting your references and citations, depending on the journal you are submitting to. Using EndNote, you can search for any journal articles from any database such as PubMed. Using EndNote you can add your citation to your word document, and the alphabetical order of your references and the numbering of your citations automatically updates in seconds. In short, EndNote is a much better option than manually entering a reference.

40 Brief Introduction to EndNote
EndNote is fairly easy to use Resource courtesy from the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences: the link provides step-by-step instruction about how to get started with EndNote, how to prepare your own EndNote library and use it for all your research purposes. The College of Engineering Library also offers sessions and information about using EndNote (courtesy of Kari Kozak)

41 Practice Presenting your Work before a Poster Session
It helps to practice presenting your poster to someone who is familiar with your work (such as a co-worker or mentor) and someone who is not as a familiar with your work (that is, someone that is not from within your discipline and area of study). Most importantly, know your audience. Presenting your work does not involve “dumbing your work down” whatsoever. Instead, think of it as tailoring your work to your audience that gives the overview of the project, but still DOES NOT eliminate the technicalities. I find it helpful to create small cards with 5 or 6 defined key terms from my poster for judges and audience members that stop by. They really appreciate this! Develop a hook that will lead right into your background. I mentioned earlier that it is wise to start your background section with information about the disease or global issue that is the center of your research. On top of this, it helps to have a hook that will lead into your discussion about the disease for instance. Speaking about my own personal research surrounding blindness, I always tend to start out with an optical illusion or something involving the motif of sight. I strongly encourage you to develop something similar.

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